Where to sit, what to watch and where to party at the rugby
Holly Sands and Rob Garratt
Now in its 42nd year, the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens has grown exponentially since it began in 1970. This family-friendly event lures up to 50,000 spectators every year, a mix of UAE residents and visitors who fly in just for the event – many donning their fancy dress.
The Sevens Stadium on Al Ain Road will host a weekend of fast-paced matches, live music and revelry on December 1-3, and 2011 looks set to be better than ever: international women’s teams will compete this year for the first time in the tournament’s history. In another first, an official song has been penned for the tournament by local rockers Juliana Down, called ‘Your Time Is Now’ (download it free at www.julianadown.net).
At this year’s event you can also expect new teams, a bigger family entertainment area and an even wider selection of food and drinks stands. So grab your mates and your best Dame Edna wig and get ready to shout yourself hoarse.
Where to sit
There are four stands at the event, including a section in the Air BP family stand that will be a designated alcohol-free area where parents and children up to the age of 12 can watch all the action. The other three stands (DHL public stand, Emirates hospitality stand and the main Airbus grandstand with reserved seating) boast varying degrees of shade – in DHL, opposite the Air BP stand, you could be left roasting in the sun, so either pack a hat and sunscreen, or pick a perch higher up and hope for some shade from the overhead covering.
While the stands are constructed from temporary scaffolding, the tournament’s commercial manager, 55-year-old Donal Kilalea, explains they couldn’t be safer. ‘These stands adhere to the highest safety codes and are tested and conform to all international standards. We bring in a company from the UK to verify the safety standards every year.’
Teams to watch
Fiji and New Zealand are the biggest names to keep an eye on this year, along with the always-entertaining Kenya, while last year’s winners England will also be worth watching. The UAE will also be playing for the first time as a national team this year, after formerly entering as the Arabian Gulf team. International matches run from 9.20am on Friday and 9.40am on Saturday, with the semi-final on Saturday at 5.02pm and the final at 8.18pm.
Meanwhile, international women’s teams will compete at the event for the first time, contesting the inaugural IRB Women’s Sevens Challenge Cup: teams from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England, South Africa, Spain and the USA will step up to the challenge.
What to eat & drink
This year, the food and drink area beside pitch two will be four times the size of the previous year’s area, and there will be a new refreshment area facing pitch four. ‘This year we’ve got a new organic barbecue with chicken skewers, drumsticks and wings. There will also be hot pies, pizzas and picnic hampers filled with salads, pasta, cheese selections and so on, as well as the usual fish and chips, pub grub and American hot dogs,’ explains Kilalea. As for drinks, there will be a number of branded licensed tents throughout the event area.
As the organisers say, ‘this is no dinner party’ fans are encouraged to arrive as early as they like, with the gates opening at 8am each morning; matches run until 9pm, followed by live music on Friday and Saturday. Though there are no buses running to the stadium in the morning, there will be free buses departing nightly to drop-off points at Festival City, Media City, The Irish Village, Chi@The Lodge, Barasti, Nezesaussi and further locations yet to be announced. The first buses depart at 5pm on December 1 and 6pm on December 2 and 3. Most taxi drivers will know where the stadium is, but if your driver needs directions or you decide to drive yourself (there is free parking available), take Al Ain Road (aka Route 66) past Dubai Outlet Mall and look out for signs to the stadium on your left, just after exit 29.
Within minutes of the last final whistle sounding on both match days, live music will kick off within the Rugby Village. Friday will start with local rockers Juliana Down before covers band The CVE take to the stage, while Saturday will see The Million Dollar Band perform. Organisers expect 70 per cent of the crowd to stick around for the shows. Free with a Rugby Sevens wristband. Fri-Sat 9pm-midnight. Rugby Village (04 321 0008).
The Irish Village: A traditional post-Sevens party spot, ‘The IV’ will welcome revellers at all hours, with regular buses between the venue and the stands from noon to midnight. Pre-match, fans can stock up with a Friday brunch (Dhs85), while the post-match crowd will be entertained with tunes from The MapleJacks. Expect silly costumes and sillier dancing until the wee hours. Free. Fri-Sat noon-3am. Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud (04 282 4750).
Chi@The Lodge: The infamous nightspot claims its Friday-night bash will be Dubai’s biggest post-Sevens party, with Juliana Down performing (again), plus sets from DJs Richie, Roni, Andy Swift and DLB. On Saturday the party continues with resident DJs DLB, Flow Master John and Emtee. Free with a Rugby Sevens wristband, Dhs100 without. Fri-Sat 9pm-3am. Al Nasr Leisureland, Oud Metha (04 337 9470).
Barasti: This beach bar could boast some famous faces, with the management issuing a personal invite to all the teams. If not, there will be plenty to keep partiers occupied, with rugby-themed inflatable games and live music all night. Free. Open daily 5pm-3am. Le Méridien Mina Seyahi (04 399 3333).
Nezesaussi: As well as welcoming revellers straight off a direct bus from the stands, this high-end sports bar will be serving a pre-Sevens breakfast (Dhs65) from 8am on Friday and Saturday. Free. 8am-2am. Al Manzil Hotel, Downtown Dubai (04 428 5888).
The Dubai Rugby Sevens is renowned as a place for enthusiastic fans to showcase their team affiliation through face paint, banners, flags and, most importantly, fancy dress. While you’re guaranteed to see a fair few kilts, Union Jack T-shirts, and even the odd Maori costume, the outfits on show are by no means limited to national dress, as showcased by these snaps of our favourite looks from last year.